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Gov’t Kick-starts Boko Haram Clampdown 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr

In recent months, Muslim clerics have recurrently presumed the snowballing presence across Cameroon of members of Nigeria’s militant Islamic sect, the Boko Haram.  In August for example, Sheikh Ibrahim Mbombo Mubarak, a Douala-based Imam warned that the Central African nation no longer served only as a sanctuary for fugitives of the extremist movement, but was fast becoming a station for enrolling converts.

Ostensibly, the chimes of those alarm bells are finally netting government attention. Authorities in the country’s largest metropolis, Douala, have kicked off consultations with Muslim clerics and community leaders aimed at elaborating a blueprint to fend off the inbound fundamentalists.  The kick-starter session, to be replicated nationwide held in late November under the auspices of Bernard Okalia Bilai, senior divisional officer for the Wouri Division headquartered in Douala.

“We have been informed of attempts of  Boko Haram infiltration.  Their doctrine is anti-social as it condemns western education.  It’s a doctrine that persuades young graduates to rip their degrees because it’s satanic.  It’s a doctrine that condemns what today constitutes the values of our society and top authorities of the country don’t accept that such hateful dogma is established in our communities, and thus the necessity of this meeting.  We must be vigilant,” the administrator expounded, adding that ongoing high-level deliberations are contemplating how to best stave off the infiltration. 

Boko Haram is a term coined from Hausa to symbolize radical opposition to Western education.  It is believed the movement was hatched between 2000 and 2003 in Nigeria, as the Committee of Islamic Youth.  Its initial goal was to counter Christianity.  Before long, it metamorphosed into Boko Haram. The radical religious group has been accused of, or claimed responsibility for a spate of savage assaults in recent years in Nigeria.  Essentially, militants target and kill Christians, police, politicians, local government officials as well as blow up government institutions.

In July 2009, sectarian clashes pitting Boko Haram and Christians in Nigeria’s Borno State, which shares borders with Cameroon, left over 800 people dead within days.  The Nigerian police and army launched an offensive that culminated in the killing of the group leader, Mohammed Yusuf, alongside several high profile aides.

The crackdown triggered the escape of some of the group members to neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.  Sheik Mubarak says after initially seeking refuge in Cameroon’s predominantly Muslim northern regions, which share porous borders with Nigeria, the runaway militants have steadily infiltrated Muslim communities elsewhere across the country and are hosted unwittingly or knowingly by some hard-line Cameroonian Muslim leaders who even allow them preach extremist ideologies in their mosques.

“Boko Haram militants are experts in camouflage.  Don’t wait to see them with or without long beards.  They use all possible means to circulate.  The most important thing is to be able to decode their messages, which they are spreading with CDs.  And that’s going on in mosques, within Muslim communities and among religious leaders, some of whom are providing protection for them because they pass for Muslim brothers and so cannot be denounced,” Mubarak asserted. 

Mubarak has also alleged that some prominent members of the group, including Mohammad Nour and Mohamed Kahirou are Cameroonians who actually grew up in Douala and have since returned following the ongoing crackdown against the sect in Nigeria.  He says they are the main purveyors of the Boko Haram philosophy in Cameroon. 

Meantime, the Conference of Imams of Cameroon has equally expressed concern over the potential danger posed by the swelling presence of Boko Haram militants in the country.   Legislation on religious freedom is loose and worship houses are freely sprouting at alarming rates.  The Conference has warned that with Cameroonian Muslims witnessing doctrinal disputes and an increasingly moribund economy, recruiting Boko Haram followers across the country, with over half of its 20 million inhabitants toiling below the poverty line will be quite easy, as obtained in Nigeria when the group was first hatched.

Several Nigerian newspaper reports have hinted that police interrogations of captured Boko Haram members have revealed that the group procures weapons [including rocket launchers and AK47s] from unnamed sources in Cameroon and Chad.  Some of the reports also indicate the group has been considering the possibility of using Niger, Chad or Cameroon as a logistics base from where operations, targeting its critics and government institutions in Nigeria, can be launched.

In June this year, the Shehu of Borno State accused aliens from Chad and Cameroon of masterminding Boko Haram attacks that left several people dead.  A month later, 36 nationals including Chadians and Cameroonians were identified among those killed in a gun battle between police and suspected Boko Haram activists. Earlier this month, 43 Cameroonians, suspected of belonging to the group were expelled to Cameroon.

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